Forest Stewardship

Most landowners take pride in their land. As a forest landowner, you can:

  • Improve or maintain a healthy forest
  • Increase wildlife habitat on your property
  • Enhance natural beauty and land values
  • Increase your recreational opportunities
  • Reduce soil erosion and improve water quality
  • Protect your property from wildfire, insects and disease
  • Increase your income from forest products
  • Reduce your taxes

Many stewardship options for a healthy forest are available to landowners regardless of location or present land use. As a forest landowner, it is important that you work with a professional to get the maximum benefit from your property.

A Forest Stewardship Plan (also known a Forest Management Plan) is a collection of information about your property and your stewardship goals. This notebook is your guide to make sure you reach the goals you set. Learn more about Forest Stewardship Plans.

Stewardship Options For a Healthy Forest

Many options are available to landowners regardless of location or present land use. As a forest landowner, it is important that you work with a professional to get the maximum benefit from your property.


If wildlife management is one of your main interests, we can develop a plan that includes wildlife objectives. We might suggest that you select two or three preferred wildlife species. We would then provide detailed information on how to maximize your preferred wildlife habitat, while minimizing conflicts with other desired land uses.

Scenic Beauty

There is nothing more refreshing than taking a stroll in a forest filled with diverse wildlife, vegetation and scenic areas. Our Forester can help you increase the beauty of your forestland by:

  • Maintaining a healthy forest
  • Encouraging growth of diverse and natural landscapes
  • Preserving scenic vistas
  • Preserving historic and cultural resources
  • Protection of rare, threatened or endangered species

Water Quality Protection

The top priority in the Department's forest management program is the protection of water quality through soil erosion control. Best Management Practices (BMP's) have been developed for this purpose.

  • The Department recommends BMP's to loggers and landowners in preharvest planning, focusing on preservation of streamside management zones (SMZ's) of undisturbed timber, proper log road layout, and wetlands protection.
  • The Department, forest industry and consultant foresters cooperate in monitoring harvest operations to encourage:
    • proper stream crossings
    • installation of water diversion devices
    • seeding of log roads in grass cover
    • maintenance of SMZ's

Pine Plantations

  • Low quality hardwood sites, open fields including marginal and steep, erosive farm land and harvested pine sites are generally recommended for conversion to pine plantations.
  • Seedlings can be purchased from the VDOF each year between October and April.
  • VDOF's loblolly and white pine seedlings are genetically improved and produce trees with excellent growth and form characteristics.
  • The VDOF assists in procuring private contractors for site preparation or planting trees.
  • The VDOF monitors planting quality and checks seedling survival to ensure a successful plantation.
  • Plantations are re-examined one to two years after planting to determine the need for applying herbicide to suppress hardwood brush competition. Herbicides can be applied by ground or aerial application.
  • The VDOF also sells trees and shrub species to enhance wildlife habitat in and around pine plantations.

Natural Hardwood Regeneration

Harvested hardwood stands regenerate prolifically with new seedlings and sprouts from the roots and stumps of harvested trees. VDOF foresters examine hardwood stands to determine:

  • The potential for quality hardwood growth.
  • The species mix most likely to occupy the site following harvest.
  • Cutting practices needed to obtain the desired natural hardwood regeneration.

Forest Investment

If you are interested in using you forestland as an investment, we can develop your plan with financial objectives. In the south, a forest investment can often bring in more revenue than other traditional long-term investments. For example, a typical forestry investment will often provide a greater yield than a bond or savings account over the same period of time.

Financial Incentives

Site preparation and tree planting may involve a large financial investment. There are programs to help in meeting these costs.

The Forest Stewardship Plan

The first step toward a healthy, productive woodland is a Forest Stewardship Plan. Foresters are available in every county to provide management plans for woodland owners. Some tax benefits and cost-share incentive programs require a Forest Stewardship Plan to ensure landowner's commitment to conservation practices in return for financial benefits. Landowners must have at least 10 acres of contiguous forest land in order to be eligible to participate in the Forest Stewardship Program. There is a fee for this service. VDOF will charge $1.50 per acre for every planned acre, with a minimum charge of $200.00 per plan.

What‟s Included in a Forest Stewardship Plan?

  • What you have
  • What you want
  • Steps to get there
  • Considerations for
    –Water quality
    –Cultural Resources
    –Threatened & Endangered Species
    –Boundary lines
    –Legal/financial issues
    –Issues unique to your property

What Types of Plans are There?

  • Stewardship
  • Tree Farm
  • Conservation
  • Nutrient Management
  • Soil Sample

What Does a Plan Get Me?

  • Land use
  • Tree Farm
  • Certified Stewardship Forest
  • EQIP
  • Conservation Easement

How Do I Determine What I Want?

  • Financial
  • Environmental
  • Historical
  • Generational

How Do I Get There?

  • This is where the professionals come in…

Stewardship Documents

Each Stewardship Plan:

  • is designed to achieve the specific landowner's objectives
  • provides an inventory of tree species composition, age, merchantability, growth rate, and wildlife habitat conditions
  • considers multiple uses of the total forest resource.
  • provides options for developing wildlife habitat, aesthetics, and recreation opportunities accomplished in harmony with timber production
  • recommends methods of protecting water quality and sensitive natural areas during logging activities
  • includes a map showing location of the various forest types, land uses and natural features such as drainages
  • includes reference information on resource management

Proper land stewardship is the focus of the Forest Stewardship Plan. To maximize the benefits of forest ownership, the Stewardship Plan should be established prior to timber harvesting.

Forest Stewardship Program ~ National Standards and Guidelines

Virginia’s Forest Stewardship Program is a landowner assistance program developed for non-industrial private forest landowners by the Virginia Department of Forestry and the USDA Forest Service, State and Private Forestry. The Department of Forestry provides the forestry professionals who work with the private landowners and the USDA Forest Service provides program oversight and the grant funding that makes this Program possible. Through the cooperation of these state and federal agencies, a wealth of forest management information, expertise and experience can be at the landowner’s finger tips through a personalized document called a Forest Stewardship Management Plan.

The purpose of the Forest Stewardship Program is to encourage the long-term stewardship of nonindustrial private forest lands, by assisting the owners of such lands to more actively manage their forest and related resources. Read more about the Standards and Guidelines for this program.